Monica Johnston: The Potter​

My grade 5 teacher, Mr. Dubelay, at Birch Cliff Heights Public School, introduced me to making things with clay. Pottery added to my repertoire of activities for busily hand making things including dressmaking, cooking, baking, macrame, and crocheting.
I was fortunate enough to have encountered teachers, in a couple of well equipped high schools, which continued to encourage my pottery making passion.

I graduated from George Brown College, Toronto, in 1984 with a diploma in Commercial Ceramics. The program gave me a foundation of technical and practical knowledge in working with clay on a commercial scale. However, the heart and spirit was waiting to be discovered out in the great wide world. So I decided to take a trip and see in reality the objects and places presented to me in 35mm slides, by my teachers. After 2 months, and 8 countries across Europe, I returned home to Canada where I met the love of my life, on the other side of a wedging table, in a pottery studio.

The studio was known as Spiral Pottery. It was privately owned and occupied, cooperatively run by a hippy / come of age group. From 1984 to 1988, I was nurtured by this group to find the heart and spirit of my life’s work in pottery. I wanted my work to be a delightful pause in each and every day. At that time, I was smoke firing my pots. The pots were low fired, decorated with bright colours and low relief carving. I put complex graphic patterns, which appear on Pueblo, Anasazi, and Art Deco design next to depictions of wildlife in Henri Rousseau’s style.

In 1989, Paulus and I moved to our house, in Codrington ON. My work in pottery grew to reflect the practical pace of building and shaping a new home out of a very old farm house. I started making more and a greater variety of functional forms. We established new gardens, planted trees, and transformed the house, with a fun, whimsical, and colourful artistic vision.

I am a down to earth person who loves to be busy and productive. So much so that Paulus calls me the energizer bunny. I have grown to make only functional pots. The work has a quiet rhythm and repetition which leads to refinement, timeless beauty, and calm.

Modern life with its hectic pace, seldom provides us with the opportunity for a calm moment to smile in peace. A cup of tea, a bowl of warm soup or an entrée served on a beautiful platter can make a meal and a moment just that much more special.
My work begins as pure white porcelain. Voluptuous pottery shapes are thrown on a wheel or press-moulded by hand, then carved and /or altered. Underglaze colour is applied directly to raw clay, and fired on prior to glazing. Semi-transparent glaze seals over the underglaze colour, ensuring the decoration will never fade or wear away with use. Further, the glaze’s mysterious translucence adds variation to each area of pattern.

Colour is the celebration of life and colourful pots bring life to celebrations. Afternoon
tea, dinner parties, festive brunches and wine & cheese socials are the ideal places where my work should be.

In 2005, I built a wood fired kiln to continue the evolution of my studio work. I love the primal quiet of a fire and its place in the technology of making pottery. In particular, a wood fire has a living pulse as it grows to reach temperatures to mature and vitrify clay and glazes. It is experientially poetic and makes me feel closer to the earthy materials I work with.

I am exploring how to balance decoration and function. Every piece should be beautiful and expressive, but not take away any precision or how it may be used and felt in the hand.

Have something beautiful, and enjoy each day,
Monica Johnston